The School Yard
Picture the scene in a school yard, a group of children are on break and they are deciding what game to play. The choices are a ball game, Hide and Seek, Tag (or It), Chinese Statues etc. There are 6 children in the group and one seems to have more of a voice than the others. “I want to play rounders, look I have a ball”, some of the others want to play different games but their voices are not heard, its like this every break, there are always ring leaders. Eventually one other person says; “rounders” and the balance is tipped. They move quickly on, perhaps one of the group wanders off in silent protest that this isn’t what she or he wants to play, maybe one other says; “I’m not playing” and walks off perhaps to catch up with the other deserter. Now we have a group that ostensible wants to play ‘Rounders’ and we have one person who has elected themselves as ‘leader’ and they not only own the ball but they also own the game and to a large extent control of the group. This person, having made themselves default captain of one team, then goes on to select a captain of the other team. Then the team selection starts by taking turns, naturally with the ‘owner’ having first pick.
Once the teams are in place the playing area is set out by dropping jumpers and bags as corners, no bat is needed, this is an agile game, only the ball is required and players will use their fist as a bat.
Throughout the game the ‘leader’ will be the self elected umpire, arbitrator of disputes and scoring and they will also decide when the game ends, its their ball after all!
An Organisation Forms
So there in the school yard a hierarchy was established, it wasn’t democratic it was effectively a hierarchy dictated by the most vociferous and powerful, in political terms it was a dictatorship. It wasn’t fair and some players may have felt put upon but those who really didn’t want to play had the choice and in fact two walked. This is natural behaviour, people have different personalities and different levels of determination and will. In the school yard scenario there might be two strong leaders in which case two factions, teams or even gangs might form.
The point is as we grow up, our personality preferences don’t really change much, if you were a leader in the school break, perhaps you are now, if you were a loner or a follower perhaps you still are.
So what is the point of this story? The point is in any organisation its important to realise that people never really grow up. Some want to lead and some want to be led. Some want to be on their own but universally people in your organisation want to have ‘fun’ and ‘action’. It would be very strange if a class full of children went into the yard and were just lost in their own individual thoughts, that simply does not happen.
So if you work in any organisation, think back to your preferences in the school yard and think about your role now. Has it changed? If you have to deal with dissenters or difficult people now you just have to do it. You can’t ignore them, or can you? If people really don’t like your leadership or organisation they will vote with their feet and just leave.
In any organisational challenge think about it in these simple terms, remember that despite all the stresses and strains of adult life, people never grow up and the drive to want to lead or to be part of a team is inherently strong but most importantly if its not rewarding and fun then, as the famous line on TV’s ‘Dragons Den’ goes, “let me tell you where I am…. I’m out”!